Sleepy Hollow fire 'devastating and heartbreaking all at once'

The only unscathed feature on Cindy Dominguez's property was a clean, white statue of St. Francis, surrounded by blackened trees. He still stood in the garden she planted after her son was killed in a car accident eight years ago.

"That's it," she said Tuesday afternoon as a hot wind blew through Broadview, her neighborhood turned disaster area by the Sleepy Hollow fire that consumed up to 30 homes. "That's the meaning, right there. We went through some tough stuff."

A charred porch swing stands where a porch used to be. The house burned down around the metal box that formed Dominguez's fireplace. It remains, burned and lonely in the rubble.

"It's devastating and heartbreaking all at once," Dominguez said, as she sipped a bottle of water and surveyed the damage. "I have to find my wedding ring. I had it in a drawer. I should have had it in the fire lockbox. It was the only thing that would withstand the fire, and we took it with us. Duh."

 Dominguez shook her head. She turned 50 a few weeks ago, an odometer turn of a birthday that cried out for change.

 "I wanted to start a new chapter in my life," she said. "But not like this."

Desiree Schmidt had set up a tent beside the wreckage of Dominguez's house. She was handing out bottled water, cookies and kindness to fire victims and firefighters alike.

On the hill behind her was the orange roof of her own intact home. She and her husband had watched the fire burn  toward them until they packed their car with what they could and sped away. They did not know what they would see when they headed home Monday.

"But our street was spared," Schmidt said. "It's a mix of emotions, blessed and guilty. I can go to my refrigerator, and [I can] shower. We have 28 friends and neighbors who can't. I had to do something."

By Tuesday night, the fire was 47% contained, and firefighters were focusing on mop-up operations, officials said at an evening community meeting.

Between 25 and 30 homes were destroyed and four industrial buildings were damaged in the blaze, which began Sunday and rapidly whipped through the drought-parched area, consuming 2,950 acres.

Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz estimated the damage at between $50 million and $60 million for commercial property and $10 million to $15 million for residences. In an interview after the meeting, he said that a municipal fireworks ban probably would be announced Wednesday morning.

"The city will have a prohibition in place for this Fourth of July," he said. "I think the lesson learned here is that we should probably be banning fireworks, not that we know that fireworks caused it or not. But any sort of spark in these kind of dry conditions can start the kind of fire that we had today."

For all of the destruction, officials were relieved that the situation was not worse.

Sunday was "an extremely volatile night," Wenatchee Police Capt. Doug Jones said. "We had a lot of evacuations on very quick notice. We didn't lose any lives and had no injuries. It was pretty remarkable."

Officials said the cause of the blaze was under investigation.

“How did this all start? We don't know,"  Sgt. Kent Sisson, with the Chelan County Sheriff's Office, told the community meeting. "There was no lightning that night. We look at the high probability of some kind of human cause, be it accidental or intentional. We don't know."

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